A nightmare on a Toronto street in the middle of Friday afternoon. Sam was at work in his bar on Roncesvalles when he heard a loud noise outside – as he told us later, PAM PAM PAM PAM PAM. Gunshots. People ran from the window of the bar, but he went towards it and saw a white car speeding away and the owner of the restaurant next door, Paul, slumped, toppling, on the staircase of his place. He told us they’d suspected the place had Mafia connections.
He ran to Paul – there was a handgun on the ground near him. It was horrific, what he saw – four or five bullet holes in his back, his chest exploded. Sam knelt, held him, pressed his waiter’s cloth to Paul’s back, he said, in an attempt to keep his insides in, talking to him, telling him he’d be okay, hang in there buddy. Someone else came over. Paul struggling to breathe. And then he died, in Sam’s arms.
Years ago, my son’s best friend died of an accidental drug overdose in an apartment where Sam was sleeping. He woke up and his friend was ice cold, his face blue. He went through a day of questioning by police to make sure he was not implicated. I was in London at the time, distraught at not being able to help, but Anna and others stepped up and looked after him. He has always blamed himself for his friend’s death, was eventually diagnosed with PTSD. And now this.
He said what was truly appalling, after Paul’s death, was people coming over with their cellphones to take pictures. It was a Friday afternoon; the street was crowded.
The police came and Sam spent hours telling them whatever he knew, which was not much.
He came over here late last night. For once, for blessed once, both his parents were here to be with him. His dad is quiet and solid and kind; we heard his story spill out, over and over again. We told him what a good thing he had done, to accompany this man in his final moments. Finally, I gave him two of my sleeping pills and made a bed for him on the sofa. When I got up this morning, he’d gone home.
The worst part of being a parent is not being able to stop life from devastating your children.